An Irish Jig. Chapter two.

11 06 2009

Kilkenny itself is a neat little joint, small enough to walk in a hour or so, but large enough to hold, oh I don’t know, 30 or so pubs. Sweet. Laura’s job as a journo with the local paper also meant she knew nearly every resident which almost made up for not following her brother’s career advice and staying the hell away from print journalism in the first place.

awesome

awesome

But I soon found not everyone was her pal. Most of the people we passed said ‘hi’. Some stopped to chat. Some waved from their cars. Eventually I had to ask. “So who was that?”

“Oh, I’ve no idea – I’ve never met them.”

“So everyone waves at everyone else?”

“Yep”

Friendly spot, Ireland.

chaps wear tweed

chaps wear tweed

They’re also happy to chat to newcomers, heck, they’ll chat to anyone, so long as you’re not English. Sadly, this friendliness is a moot point at the bar, because after their third pint, that charming Irish brogue becomes unintelligible. God only knows that they were saying, but I nodded along and smiled politely.

The Irish also have a mean line in sports and everyone is into it. My sister’s girlfriends happily discuss player trades for hours and everyone carries a stick. I’m not kidding. For a country where every teenager is armed with a wooden club (ok, a ‘hurl’) there is a surprising lack of gang violence. Can you imagine if the kids of London carried hockey sticks on the buses? Good grief…

grown men bashing each other with sticks

grown men bashing each other with sticks

Hurling is a fantastic spectator sport that blends field hockey and lacrosse but without any of that sissy safety gear that ensures lacrosse players are the butt of jokes the world over. No, you are… Anyway, players belt baseballs at each other before smashing them into goals at each end of the field – the very same goal posts used for Gaelic football. Handy….

During my week in town I also made it west to Galway where I managed to miss the Volvo Ocean sailing race by a day and we almost saw a few local sights, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher being cloaked in fog when I showed up. Still, it was super to be able to escape the barely-bustling cities in a matter of minutes and be surrounded by rolling fields at every turn. Armed with a translator, I’ll be back.

the cliffs of moher probably look like this

the cliffs of moher probably look like this

Advertisements




An Irish Jig. Chapter one.

11 06 2009
ruins dotted the coutryside

ruins dotted the coutryside

My family has trouble staying in one place.

Originally from New Zealand, my parents now live at diagonally-opposite corners of Australia. My middle sister teaches school at a remote Aboriginal community, 200km north of Newman. My little sister is a journalist in Kilkenny, Ireland. Family get-togethers are rare, but what this does mean, is I have a fantastic array of spots to hang out when I find the time.

With this in mind, I decided a trip to Ireland was long overdue, so I fitted in a few days on my way to the States. Having fled the stifling heat and German hordes of Mallorca, my twilight ride south thru the middle counties of green, green Ireland was a welcome change. It was even raining, a fact that became less of a novelty as the trip went on.

remarkably similar to my mallorquian steed

remarkably similar to my mallorquian steed

Happily, my sister’s flatmate worked for a car rental agency but sadly my 7.30pm arrival was too late for the airport staff so I bussed it south to Kilkenny. Still, the car was waiting in the driveway next day and my sister guided us east to Graiguenamanagh (yeh I know..) where we ignored signs to the trail and trekked cross-country up the nearest hill.

Here, I encouraged my tall and once athletic sister to gracefully vault a barbed-wire fence standing in our way, but she got hung up and crashed to the ground with a hole in her jeans.  I may never forgive myself for not setting my camera to ‘video’.

the whole country looks like this

the whole country looks like this

The view from the top showcased the emerald green patchwork of fields that make up Ireland’s countryside. Coming from Oz, I just never get sick of looking at lush green pastures. Sometimes you forget not every farmer faces water shortages. Apparently, it actually rains more there during the summer – the winter being dry(ish) but witheringly cold. Still, as Laura and her buddies noted, it’s just not worth wasting your time whining about the rain when it’s a constant. Put on a coat and get on with it.

Luckily, my visit eventually coincided with the warmest weather Kilkenny had enjoyed all year, so I was treated to the spectacle of an Irish backyard barbecue – much like ours, but here you can actually watch the punters burn before your very eyes. Twenty minutes of ‘Oh, this is grand’ and they were done. Stick a fork in ‘em. The girls were roasted. Hilarious.